MIAMI GARDENS — Charles Harris was so caught up in all the details of his first NFL game, he completely missed what will surely be the most significant detail of his first NFL game.
It wasn’t until it was over that Harris realized his rookie peer, his roommate and good friend, Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan, hadn’t played behind him.
As in, hadn’t played one defensive snap.
“Somebody at the end of the game was like, ‘What happened? Where’s Raekwon?'” Harris said after Miami’s preseason opener at Hard Rock Stadium. “I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ Then one of the trainers said he was hurt. And I didn’t want to ask any more questions. I didn’t want to think about it.”
Harris was Miami’s first-round draft choice this year, a speed-rushing defensive end from Missouri.
McMillan was Miami’s second-round draft choice this year, a sure-tackling middle linebacker from Ohio State.
It appears now, depending on the severity of McMillan’s right knee injury, that they won’t play a single regular-season defensive snap together this season.
They never even played a preseason snap together, as McMillan was hurt covering the first NFL punt of his life.
“We feel like we are the future of the franchise,” Harris said.
After the game, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he did not have a diagnosis and thus could neither confirm nor deny two tweets — one from a local cameraman and one from a local talk show host — which claimed McMillan had sustained a season-ending ACL injury.
“They haven’t told me anything yet, so unless you have better sources than I do…I’m the head coach,” Gase said.
Harris said: “Until I get the details, as far as I’m concerned, he’ll be back.”
McMillan left the locker room on crutches, a bulky brace on his injured right knee.
Gase calls the offensive plays and the man who was supposed to wear a headset during games, Ryan Tannehill, seems likely to miss this season with a knee injury.
First-year coordinator Matt Burke calls the defensive plays and the man who was supposed to wear the defensive headset during games, McMillan, is perhaps facing the same fate.
Not exactly what Gase envisioned for his second South Florida summer.
“Just keep going,” Gase said. “Keep plugging. Keep encouraging guys to step up. That’s what our guys do. Our guys handle adversity just as good as anybody.”
Veteran defensive back Michael Thomas said of Gase: “If you have somebody who is leading you that is weak and responds to situations in a weak manner, your team is going to respond in a weak manner. I think (Gase) showed last year that he’s a strong dude. When it comes to adversity, he feels that he gets stronger. He feels that he puts the team on his back. And wants everybody else to have the next man up mentality. He doesn’t blink. He doesn’t bat an eye.”
Gase is dealing with a lot of things at once, and frankly, he seemed a bit weary in the post-game presser. It’s hard to blame the man, who is perpetually positive.
Tannehill’s injury. Mike Pouncey’s lingering injury recovery. Jay Ajayi’s concussion. Ted Larsen’s injury. Jarvis Landry’s legal situation (and unresolved contract extension). And now, potentially, a significant injury to the 20-year-old draft pick selected specifically to help ease Miami’s porous run defense.
The news seemed to hit Miami’s defense-heavy rookie class hard.
“I’ll be praying,” rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley said. “I just saw him laying on the ground. The way he was moving around, I could tell it really wasn’t good.”
“I need to give him a call as soon as I get out of here,” rookie defensive tackle Davon Godchaux said. “The rookies, we all feed off each other.”
Harris and McMillan were feeding off each other in training camp. The Dolphins have drafted them in a effort to rebuild a defense that missed too many tackles and allowed too many yards in 2016.
Harris said he and McMillan have similar personalities. Mellow. Chill. Go to sleep at the same time.
“We both love playing,” Harris said. “That’s the biggest thing. And we like to talk about it. Post-practice. We talk about it all. We talk about our dreams and our goals.”
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